Ohio law now allows private fireworks before July 4. Not every community is on board

Fireworks over a Downtown Cleveland skyline
A new law legalizing fireworks during certain holidays allows local governments to decide whether or not to permit fireworks in their communities. [Kenneth Sponsler / Shutterstock]

This year’s Fourth of July may be a little brighter and louder in some Northeast Ohio communities. A new law allows individuals to set off bottle rockets, roman candles and other consumer grade fireworks starting Friday.

The law, Ohio House Bill 172, opens up the possibility for adults to set off fireworks on their own property on certain days of the year: New Year's Day; Lunar New Year; Memorial Day weekend; Juneteenth; July 3, 4 and 5, along with the weekends succeeding and preceding the Fourth of July; Labor Day weekend; Diwali and New Year's Eve.

“People are shooting them anyways,” said John Sorgi, owner of American Fireworks in Hudson, who supports the new law. "So we think it sort of normalizes it a little more and allows communities a little more control on that front.”

Although the law makes setting off fireworks legal in Ohio, local municipalities have the final say in whether fireworks are banned.

“I think they did it the right way. They’re limiting it to holidays and then that whole thing with the option of allowing people to opt out,” Sorgi said in a phone interview. “Then they’re also doing a safety fee tax, which, that’s another common thing in states when they legalize; They’ll put an extra tax on there and that goes to fire prevention, communities, that kind of thing.”

The flexibility of the law leaves many Ohioans wondering where their communities stand on legalizing fireworks.

Communities continuing their fireworks bans:

  • Ashtabula (Ashtabula)
  • Conneaut (Ashtabula)
  • Berea (Cuyahoga)
  • Cleveland (Cuyahoga)
  • Euclid (Cuyahoga)
  • Lakewood (Cuyahoga)
  • Rocky River (Cuyahoga)
  • Strongsville (Cuyahoga)
  • Westlake (Cuyahoga)
  • Vermilion (Erie and Lorain)
  • Bellevue (Huron)
  • Norwalk (Huron)
  • Amherst (Lorain)
  • Mentor (Lake)
  • Medina (Medina)
  • Wadsworth (Medina)
  • Aurora (Portage)
  • Akron (Summit)
  • Orrville (Wayne)

Communities adopting the new fireworks law:

  • Sandusky allows fireworks on Memorial Day, July 3-5 and New Year’s Eve (Erie)
  • Huron (Erie)
  • Painesville (Lake)
  • Lorain allows fireworks on July 4, Cinco de Mayo, Juneteenth and New Years Eve (Lorain)
  • Youngstown (Mahoning)
  • Hudson (Summit)
  • Wooster (Wayne)

Communities still deciding whether to adopt the fireworks law: 

  • Ashland has not yet made a decision, but it is enforcing its current ban on fireworks. 
  • Kent is waiting to see the final rules about the law before making a decision.
  • North Canton has not passed any fireworks related legislation as of June 22. Currently, fireworks are still banned.
  • Campbell has not passed any laws regarding adopting this law. 
  • Chardon has not discussed this bill and has no plans to discuss it in the near future.

To ban or not to ban

In Northeast Ohio, many municipalities are choosing to continue their bans while others have elected to wait and see how the new law plays out in neighboring towns.

Some larger cities, including Cleveland, have decided against legalizing fireworks.

Cleveland City Councilman Mike Polensek, who chairs council's Safety Committee, cited concerns with quality of life and safety, including fireworks-related injuries and property damage, as reasons for continuing Cleveland’s ban.

“So that’s why we took a hard line in Cleveland, and we’re gonna continue to take a hard line, because we want peace and quiet in our neighborhoods; we want quality of life restored. And if not, we're going to continue to see people leave the urban areas, and that’s not good for anyone,” Polensek said in a phone interview.

A question for municipalities continuing to ban fireworks is policing. Illegal fireworks usage is typically ignored by law enforcement.

Polensek acknowledges this difficulty and notes that many constituents wanted the city to intensify enforcement.

“They want more tickets given out, and they want more action from the police, which is a problem because we don’t have the officers that we need to do the kind of enforcement that we would all like,” he said.

“We're looking to the administration to enforce the laws as best as they can. Are they going to be everywhere? No, we know that,” Polensek continued. “It has to come down to a lot of personal responsibility, of individuals, of homeowners, of tenants to be mindful of their neighbors and their neighbors’ pets, individuals who have post-traumatic stress disorder, kids.”

Even smaller communities acknowledge the difficulty of prosecuting fireworks-related violations. Huron, with a population of about 7,000, has legalized fireworks.

City Manager Matt Lasko hopes by making the law more clear, it’ll “clean up the turning a blind eye to individuals doing it on the Fourth of July or around the Fourth of July and us and other cities not doing anything about it.”

Members from Huron’s police and fire departments are part of the Safety Committee that supported the law. Lasko notes the emphatic support of Huron’s Safety Committee, discussions with residents and the overall personality of Huron’s community all went into the multi-faceted decision.

“We are a very sought after community with a lot of established residents as well that have respect for their neighbors and those around them,” Lasko said in a Zoom interview. “So it's not to say we never discussed the possibility of concerns or issues, but I think we really believe in the level of responsibility in our community that, for the most part, we’re envisioning very little in terms of issues and disturbances.”

Lasko emphasizes that the law is not permanent. Huron plans to review fireworks safety annually until community leaders are confident in the law's safety.

“I truly believe this will be an annual exercise until we feel very confident based on several years of this potentially being in place or tweaked,” he said. “I cannot stress that enough about how important this annual review is moving forward.”

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